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(Call for Papers) Migrant Asia: International Conference on Migrants in the Making of Asia

Conference dates: April 23-25, 2025

Venue: Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok

Organized by: EMMIR/CRG/CGFD


The Asian continent covers one third of the globe and is home to almost 60% of the world’s population. With its complex colonial histories and webs of migrations, its connectivity and as well as its disconnects, histories of bitter divides and welcoming accommodations, Asia constitutes multiple utopias and dystopias. It is a continent of origins, transits and destinations with myriad regimes of power and border regimes where people, ideas, goods and commodities, capital and labour were and are constantly on the move; migrants and refugees, stateless and internally displaced populations in millions, Asia is quintessentially a space of mixed and massive flows. 


To understand Asia one has to understand its histories of population movements because this cauldron of movements is what makes Asian societies today. Seemingly, millions have been resettled seamlessly over time. This comprises migrants from India, the country with the highest number of migrants in the world—but it is important that these, like most other Asian migrants, do not move away from the continent. And Asia is the part of the world with the greatest natural disasters that displace people. Asia is perhaps best described through its histories of migrations or in the post pandemic period with the adjective ‘migrant’.      


‘Does Asia live in its past?’ is a question that often vexes scholars, including those of migration. Or: Is post-colonial Asia best understood through its responses to partitions and population movements? There have been renewed attempts to reconceptualise Asia as a dynamic yet historically interconnected geographical and cultural formation. The impulses behind these attempts are varied, ranging from challenging the pervasive epistemic Eurocentric geopolitics to the critique of the Western domination of global markets or the argument that cultural and philosophical resonances and continuities exist within the continent. Some scholars have also argued for adopting the ‘Inter-Asian’ or ‘Asia as a Method’ lens as a de-imperialising and decolonising project, while others have critiqued revivalist and imperialist tendencies inherent in these projects. But whichever way one looks at it, migration remains a constant.


Any history of Asian migration, like in other parts of the world, includes processes as varied as regional histories of mobility, colonial conquests, structural and environmental changes, rapid urbanisations, as well as the politics of statecraft that often force people to move. Within Asia, neo-colonialism, ethnic conflicts as well as clashes of religious ideologies, but also ethno-linguistic representation in electoral democracy or the fight for democracy over the last several decades have “made” refugees of various forms and kinds, not all of whom necessarily sit within the classic legal definition of a “refugee” as accepted under international refugee law. What also needs to be taken into account: although taking place within Asia, there are numerous geo-political conflicts and interventions driven by especially actors from the Global North: e.g. the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rendered Palestinians permanent refugees and continues to do so, so did the war in Afghanistan but also the subsequent withdrawal of Western military in 2021 or the war in Syria since 2011. Until today, a major marker of Asia are the partitions in the 20th century,  in Palestine and in the Indian subcontinent. 


To date, environmental degradation and climate change had already enormous impact on Asia, and more is to come. In the Asia-Pacific there are islands disappearing. Floods and tsunamis, tornadoes and cyclones but also draughts occur more frequently than ever—leading to numerous migrants. The situation gets even more complicated with emerging geo-political challenges. 


Asia is also a continent with countries with burgeoning young populations. Yet policies and border securitisations facilitate the mobility of capital and not of labour. The world over, but namely in the Global North, states via highly selective migration policies ‘cherry pick’ migrants and Asia is an important recruitment area. 


The feminisation of migration is a phenomenon that affects Asia intimately, not least during the pandemic but also post-pandemic. The careers and lives of professional men and women, who are sought after by the global economy, are intertwined with the lives of female migrant domestic workers: their families, their bodies and their wombs. Last but not least, trafficking—mostly of women and girls—is a phenomenon that continues unabated because it benefits someone. 


All of these dimensions make migration inevitable in Asia: Asia is the continent of migrants and to understand Asia one needs to understand migration. We expect the following panels: 

  • War, coloniality, geopolitics and migration

  • Ecological marginalities and mobility

  • Gendered intersections and migrant women

  • Revisiting migration and the pandemic

  • Migrants and logistical Asia

  • Rapid urbanisation, formation of burgeoning cities and migration

  • Inter-Asia migrant cultures

  • Protection regimes in Asia


Call for papers

We especially encourage young scholars from the Global South to submit abstracts of original papers (500 words) to the conference incl. bio notes (300 words). Please indicate for which panel you apply. Deadline: July 30, 2024. Decisions will be communicated by October 15, 2024. 


Accepted presenters are asked to submit their full papers (8000 words) by March 31, 2025. The conference organisers retain the first right of refusal for the final paper. A conference publication is planned.


Costs and travel grants

There is no conference fee. You may request a travel grant which will based on the decision of the conference board and there might be a waiting list. We expect presenters to arrive on April 22, 2025 and to depart on April 26/27, 2025. Travel grants include: visa fees with refund on arrival (receipt necessary) plus health insurance, air fare, airport transfer in Bangkok, accommodation and meals during the conference—all booked directly by the organizers. Airport transfer or overland travel in your country of departure is not part of the travel grant. If you wish to extend your stay beyond the duration of the conference, we would book your tickets accordingly but the cost of stay will be at your expense. 


Types of participation

This hybrid conference is by invitation only. Online attendance (free of charge) will be offered to a wider audience based on registration. For EMMIR Edition 11 and 12 students, participation online or in person is obligatory.


Abstract submission guidelines

  • Please submit abstracts of 300 words and bio notes of 100 words in word document format until 30 July, 2024 to emmir(at)uol.de with ‘Migrant Asia conference abstract submission’ in the subject line.

  • Indicate if you plan to attend in person or online. There is no conference fee and paper presenters may ask for travel grants. 

  • Submitted abstracts should include results of original research. Please indicate if your paper would be available for an EMMIR Consortium publication (edited book or special issue journal). 

  • Authors presenting online are asked to prepare recorded presentations to be used in case of technical or other difficulties. 


Important dates

  • Call for abstracts published: 19 May 2024

  • Deadline for submission of abstracts: 30 July 2024

  • Notification of abstract acceptance: 15 October 2024

  • Award of travel grants: 15 November 2024

  • Start of visa procedures: 30 November 2024

  • Publication of conference programme, incl. abstracts & bio notes: 15 December 2024

  • Deadline for submission of full papers: 31 March 2025


Please extend this CfP to your networks.

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